The More Things Change
Despite the critical successes of Passing Strange, In the Heights, and August: Osage County, next season's Broadway roster looks an awful lot like seasons past. In fact, most of it comes from seasons past. In fact, even much of the new stuff--Billy Elliot, Shrek, Nine to Five, Vanities, Nice Work If You Can Get It (which gets its music from the Gershwins)--smells pretty musty.
Rather than grabbing the excitement of last year's out-of-town newbies and burgeoning racial diversity, and adding more seats to the table, it's as though New York's producers collectively donned their blinders, dug in their heels and refused to budge. Taking cues from South Pacific and Sunday in the Park with George, we can expect almost all retreads, all the time. The 2008-09 season features Waiting for Godot, Guys and Dolls, All My Sons, Equus, Speed-the-Plow, Pal Joey, Dancin', Brigadoon, Godspell, somebody please stop me, I feel a flashback coming on...
There are a few ways to fight the revived zombies, even if they're really, truly wonderful zombies. And--high and mighty alert--I believe it's our duty as a theatergoing society to do so. After all, if we allow the zombies to feed unchecked, they will kill all our hopes for the future and spread across the land depositing mouldering revivals in every region. And the new shows? Without our help, they won't stand a chance.
Just look at Passing Strange, which succumbed last week; the show closed after playing to less than half-filled houses for the past few months. Who wanted to play big spender with unpredictable Stew when Sandy and Danny were available? (Well, Spike Lee, for one, who filmed during the show's final week. But clearly he's an exception.)
Ahead of the retrograde pack are a couple of little shows that could--[Title of Show] and 13--which are set to capture some of the glory meant for Glory Days. But diversity? Well, we can look backward for that too, with the revamped West Side Story, and For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide (When the Rainbow is Enuf), which may or may not proceed as planned with India.Arie leading the cast. Still, there's Off-Broadway's production of the Bill T. Jones-directed and choreographed Fela!, which opens in previews tomorrow, and sounds like it might have big-time potential. And doubtless, a few surprises will emerge later in the season as well. Let's just hope they get the kind of support they--and we--need in order to survive.